Having worked on SEO campaigns for over a decade, I know that the majority of the day to day workload can be laborious, repetitive and quite honestly, boring. I love doing the research and developing the killer strategies for my clients, but implementing the actions can be a bit of a chore.
Luckily, there are some excellent tools out there that help me complete my daily SEO tasks much more efficiently and I think they will help you too, so I’ve compiled a small list of the main SEO tools for small businesses.
A bit of an odd one to start with perhaps, but hear me out. The number of small businesses I speak to that have no idea what’s happening on the results page for their target terms is too many. Search engines have developed a lot of different ‘SERP features’ over the last few years and they’re all designed to help answer the searchers query more efficiently. We’ve got knowledge graphs, reviews, video, Google My Business, more AdWords features and a lot more with a lot more to come. Small businesses need to be aware of the SERP features appearing for their target term so they can leverage it for themselves. If a local pack (Google My Business) is taking up the entire top half of the fold, you need to be in it. If video is dominant for a term you’re targeting, it’s because the search engine thinks video is the best way to answer the query, so you need to making videos. Don’t try and guess what your customers want, check the kind of content search engines are giving to people.
Backlink tools are a hugely important part of my armoury as they allow me to understand exactly how sites are ranking where they are. They are also an important source of potential link opportunities. Over the years I’ve used most of the leading backlink tools, from the brilliant (and free!) Yahoo Site Explorer (RIP) to more modern day tools such as Open Site Explorer from Moz and Ahrefs. The best tool for exploring a websites incoming links is Ahrefs. I’m a big Moz fan and subscribe to their entire toolset, but Ahrefs constantly outperforms Open Site Explorer in terms of number of incoming links found.
Unfortunately Ahrefs isn’t free, but they do have a free trial so you can test it out and see if it helps your SEO effort.
In depth, technical SEO audits aren’t something a small business owner wants to be doing – they’re time consuming, complicated and confusing. But they’re also quite important. Screaming Frog is a free tool that allows you to crawl your website and spot potential problems, such as 404 pages, broken internal links, redirects, missing title tags and descriptions and much more. If you’re new to this type of analysis the interface can be a little intimidating at first, but you’ll soon get accustomed to it and you’ll be screaming with the rest of us in no time.
This shouldn’t even be here, no excuses if you’ve not got Google Analytics (or another analytics platform) running. I still meet people who have no idea who’s visiting their site though, so I need to include it.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console monitors the ‘health’ of your website and informs you if Google is struggling to access, index or rank your content. It’s another free tool and it’s well worth installing as it’s saved my bacon on more than one occassion. Again, if you’re new to SEO the interface will be overwhelming, but you’ll soon get the hang of it.
You need to have a good understanding of what people are searching for when they’re looking for your products and services so you can target them with your content. The keyword tools I use the most are:
- Google Keyword Planner
- Moz Keyword Explorer
- Answer The Public
- Keyword Spy
- Bing Keyword Research Tool
Get stuck in and remember to try and understand the intent behind the searchers query when they made the search.
Like I mentioned above, I subscribe to everything Moz has to offer at the moment. I’m a big fan of their keyword tool and their campaign monitoring helps me keep track of technical issues, rankings, link opportunities and more. I don’t think it’s necessary for all small businesses to subscribe to Moz, but I do think it’s worth you checking out to see if it can help. At the very least, you should make Moz a regular pit stop for SEO ideas and help.
In my opinion, you (the business owner) are the most important SEO tool. You will know your industry back to front and inside out and you’ll be well connected and these are huge assets. The knowledge allows you to serve/help customers through your website and gain trust before hopefully making the sale. The connections will help establish links and build awareness through other channels. Most of my clients can get links and exposure in places I could only dream of because they’ve built sold relationships with key people over a number of years. I just help them do it.
You are also in the best possible position to come up with ideas, which I think are extremely important for SEO. It’s so important not to copy everyone else and go with the flow but to be original and come up with new ideas and you’re the best person to lead that.